The Duke Spirit - Bruiser

by Sarah Allen Rating:9 Release Date:2011-09-19

They suck you in from the first second of Bruiser; doubts that their latest efforts won't match up to the magnitude of Neptune are obliterated like birthday cakes at a Black Sabbath reunion. It's almost impossible not to smile at the realisation The Duke Spirit have still got it. And, with Bruiser, they will hurt you. "Disorder is in order," sings front-goddess Liela Moss in 'Sweet Bitter Sweet', and I couldn't agree more. These guys are back and shaking things up as only they know how.

Opener 'Cherry Tree' quenches your thirst for that classic Spirit, harking back to Cuts Across the Land. The bass; the drums; the guitars; that voice. This track has all the brawn and muscle necessary to make a heavyweight foot-stomping, fist-pumping anthem. 'Surrender' is another thumper of a track which demands the listener do as they are told. Things could get beautifully messy in the crowd during a live performance, and this makes me smile. It has all the presence of an epic album finale, although it is much closer to the beginning in terms of tracklisting. Listen out for the brief guitar solo during the final chorus. I dare your eyes not to roll back into your head at this point.

The album offers great variety. The dark 'Bodies' has a bass to rival that of any vintage Queens of the Stone Age track. Chart-friendly highlight 'Don't Wait' reminds me of a track that might be used to advertise a teenybopper soap on ITV2 while waiting for Judge Judy to berate you through the screen. Nevertheless, it's a great track, perhaps saved by the compelling bounce-worthy bridge, with Liela requesting the listener "Ride on, until you feel you belong. Ride on, and on, and on." Spoiler alert! The intro to 'De Lux' sounds a bit like 'Bad Romance', unless I'm just going Gaga. Although it includes beautiful harmonising and a great guitar riff, which no Lady Gaga presentation could muster.

The album's orgasm comes courtesy of 'Everybody's Under Your Spell'. It would be challenging work to grow weary of this track. (Believe me, I've tried, thankfully to no avail.) The stalking intro; the urgency of the chorus; the erratic violence of the bridge makes you want to stay under this spell for a while. Brilliant drummer Olly Betts really stands out on 'Northbound' and definitely makes the already superb track even better. He's also just really lovely. (I met him once with a girlfriend at a QOTSA gig and he was adorably sweet and humble as we gushed at him like teenagers.)

Although heavy guitars and catchy drums are a recurring feature in the album, there's still room for the group's signature piano riffs. And what better way to do this than by using instruments employed by musical legends. Goddess Moss told Time Out magazine she used the same piano as Axl Rose tinkered on in 'November Rain' for 'Villain' (a beautiful, biting love song), and that of Freddie Mercury from 'Bohemian Rhapsody' on 'Sweet Bitter Sweet' (which is to the album what Scrappy Doo is to Scooby: the sweet, little track ready to kick some serious backside).

Clearly, the album is marvellous. Almost perfect. My only criticism is that I wish more of it was like 'Cherry Tree' and 'Spell'. But then again, one could argue: "If everybody looked the same, we'd get tired of looking at each other," right?

This band is an enduring one which has satisfied the expectations - with consistently strong albums like debut Cuts, 2008's Neptune and now Bruiser, as well as their countless EPs - that they will be around for a long time. As Moss sings: "Missed you much, oh, would you bet," in 'Spell', I reply to my speakers: "Liela, you guys have no idea!"

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